Mano Sundaresan is old school, he went back to using carrier pigeons.
Sada Baby – “SkubaRu”
As soon as Sada Baby’s voice breaks into the stratosphere, reaching that piercing octave and possessed-pastor bite, it’s over. What makes it work is Sada’s mastery of vocal dynamics. He’s really good at making you think he’s just hurling himself at the beat when he’s actually approaching it with laser precision. On “SkubaRu,” he hesitates and jab steps and swerves around the drums. He goes from brooding to ferocious in a heartbeat. Punchlines turn into moments when they’re delivered perfectly, and the image of Sada staring at G Herbo sneering “I need them Bel Air bottles with my face up in them!” has been burned into my mind all week.
This song is another reminder, in case you needed one, that Sada Baby is a rare talent blessed with a golden voice and Hollywood charisma who has honed his pen game into something lethal. And the thing is, he knows he’s the shit. You can tell in the way he snarls that he needs some M’s in the future and an out-of-state mansion and his own Rap Snacks.
Frank Ocean – “DHL”
The grand return of this decade’s most beloved R&B star is a fluffy, psychedelic thing that tries to drift by like the middle parts of Blonde but ends up overstaying its welcome. Frank Ocean’s never been a flashy rapper, but he’s particularly sterile here, and the beat — soft drums, distant guitar, a switch-up into something equally passive — is just kind of…there. It’d be a fine interlude if it were shortened a couple minutes, but at its current length, it’s a sleepy crawl. In a situation like this, the writing would be the saving grace, but Frank doesn’t do an admirable job there either, with lines like “I drop you a pin like I’m bowling” landing poorly. There’s nothing wrong with slow music that aims to have a trance-like effect, but that isn’t a good argument for “DHL” because it just leaves me bored and wanting something entirely different. Hopefully the club-inspired stuff is better.
YK Osiris – “Fake No Mo”
Easily the funniest bit of music journalism I came across last week was Def Jam upstart YK Osiris talking the most shit in a Rolling Stone interview about his R&B contemporaries. “Nobody listen to Bryson Tiller,” he said. “Jacquees ain’t really on my level … Vocally, yes. But music-wise, nah.”
It’s earned arrogance — YK is riding the high of a now-platinum single in “Worth It” and a gold single in “Valentine” — and his debut album The Golden Child is evidence that there’s much more in the chamber. I know that this music is barely marketed for me and is definitely not marketed for most of you readers (sorry) but it’s very catchy and lustful and will remind you of whatever toxic male R&B artist dominated your awkward pubescent years. “Fake No Mo” is glorious manufactured pop, made in the spirit of Jeremih and Justin Bieber and 4Loko stains on your college hoodie, and could’ve been released at any point in the last five years with the same soaring effect. It evokes that nostalgia for 2010s R&B and pop that we’re already somehow feeling.
YK still has some growing to do — he dances the way teenagers used to dance to Chris Brown songs in their bedrooms — but it’s looking like heartthrob R&B will live on through him.
Chief Keef & Jeremih – “JUUG”
Continuing the trend of R&B-rap hybrids, here’s a random Chief Keef and Jeremih collab that was unceremoniously released as a DJ Pharris single. It’s an absolute travesty that Keef’s team isn’t promoting this because it’s the pop hit he’s always hinted at being able to make. Jeremih sets the cadence in the chorus, then Keef makes it his own, drowning his voice in Auto-Tune to play his part and squelch through specific brags like “When it comes to foreigns, I like them organized.”
Mari Boy Mula Mar & Gritter Tee – “Super Soak”
No artist has been more disruptive and talked about in the Milwaukee rap scene this year than Mari Boy Mula Mar, a helium-voiced Auto-Tune warbler who constantly pushes his delivery to its limits. Many of his songs sound like experiments in vocal performance — Mula Mar using more or less Auto-Tune, toying with pitch correction settings, reaching for notes well past his range — and the experiments have, at times, gone wrong. But when everything is clicking, like on “Super Soak,” the result is usually incredible.
Plus, the dude is hilarious. Catch me using the word “scammily” for the foreseeable future.